Jeffrey Lofton is senior adviser to the Library’s chief human capital officer.
Tell us about your background.
I hail from Warm Springs, Georgia, best known as the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House and ubiquitous red claylike soil.
I attended LaGrange College and studied the more-useful-than-I-imagined triad: speech, communications and theater. Later, I earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska (the beginnings of scratching a public-sector itch) and a master’s in library and information science from Valdosta State University.
What brought me to Washington, D.C.? It was my first career as a professional actor. I spent many a night trodding the boards of D.C.’s theaters and performing arts centers, including the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, Woolly Mammoth and Studio Theatre. I even scored a few television appearances, including a Super Bowl halftime commercial that my accountant wisecracked was “the finest work” of my career. My luck to find a CPA who longed to moonlight at comedy clubs.
What brought you to the Library, and what do you do?
After I left acting — much to the delight of my parents whose echo-chamber plea was always, “When will you get a real job?” — I spent the next few years as an account manager with public relations firms, many of my clients being nonprofits of various descriptions. My aforementioned parents were never quite sure what being a PR account manager entailed, but it met their chief criterion: I wasn’t cavorting about on stage or screen.
I realized over time that my heart truly was in public service, so when I saw a public affairs position with the Library’s Veterans History Project advertised, I applied with both alacrity and soberingly low expectations. Amazingly (to me), I got the job. They must have liked my bow tie, I reasoned.
I worked as a congressional liaison, program manager and section head those early years. Next, I was chief of the Employee Resources Management and Planning Division. All of that led me to my current role as senior adviser to the chief human capital officer. I just marked my 18th year at the Library, which remains my dream work home.
What are some of your standout projects?
I created the FutureBridge mentoring program and managed it for about 10 years. We envisioned it as the premiere professional development program for what was then called Library Services. It continues as a resource for employees Librarywide.
I also worked on the team that shaped the VIBRANT initiative, which is a blueprint and strategic path to enable our workforce to thrive and flourish in a future increasingly defined by disruptive forces. VIBRANT stands for virtual, interdependent, balanced, resilient, ardent, nimble and talented — all of which, together, comprise a dynamic and results-driven workforce. I am very proud of both FutureBridge and VIBRANT.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Writing (and, of course, rewriting), which is a lifelong avocation. Having grown up in the Deep South, I came to appreciate a good story very early. And now I like to tell them myself. I also enjoy playing and snuggling with our toy poodle, Petunia. I strive in life to be as good a person as she thinks I am.
What is something your co-workers may not know about you? Hmmmm. Well, I’m delighted to report that my debut novel “Red Clay Suzie,” inspired by true events, will be released this week as a hardcover, digital and audio book.
What’s “Red Clay Suzie” about, you may ask? In one sentence: Fueled by tomato sandwiches and green milkshakes and obsessed with cars, my protagonist, Philbet, struggles with life and love as a gay, physically misshapen boy in the Deep South. Christopher Castellani, author of “Leading Men” calls the novel “an arresting debut … a vivid depiction of a unique childhood that feels universal in its longing.”I used the Library’s collections in my research for “Red Clay Suzie,” and it’s amazing how much one can glean from our online resources. In particular, I learned a great deal about the topography of the central Georgia region that is the setting for most of the book. I also drew inspiration from dialogue I read in some of Zora Neale Hurston’s play scripts, fully accessible on the Library’s site. I was even able to listen to VHP interviews, including several that my mother conducted with veterans who hailed from my hometown, where “Red Clay Suzie” takes place. Exciting times ahead!